The potential severity and persistence of acoustic shock disorder symptoms has significant clinical and medico-legal implications.
Call centres in Australia need to be aware of the ongoing risk of acoustic shock and the need for acoustic shock workplace management.
To provide effective acoustic shock protection in the workplace, the following factors should be considered:
At DWM Audiology, we provide an acoustic shock Audiological Workplace Program, which includes:
Ambient noise management. The higher the levels of ambient noise, the higher the required volume level of the telephone headset amplifier for the caller’s voice to be clearly audible. This increases the risk of acoustic shock. An acoustician will be able to measure ambient noise levels and teach effective communication strategies to minimise ambient noise levels.
A number of output limiting devices have been developed to restrict maximum volume levels transmitted down a telephone line. They are of benefit to help reduce the probability of acoustic incident exposure.
However, output limiting devices are not able to provide total protection against acoustic shock.
The dominant factors leading to acoustic shock appear primarily related to the unexpectedness of the acoustic incident and secondarily to a threat response to loud sounds outside the person’s control, rather than to high volume levels alone.
Employees with persistent acoustic shock disorder symptoms remain vulnerable to a significant escalation of their symptoms should they be exposed to another acoustic incident.
For this reason, they should not return to headset use, even with output limiting devices in place. A gently graded return to handset duties can be attempted once symptoms have resolved.